Monday, May 17, 2021


This time in the Yarns of Oz we’re talking about urban legends, memes, factoids and conspiracy theories – all true, of course.


Remember – unless you heard it here - don‘t believe a thing you hear!

Monday, May 10, 2021



Get your clogs on! Here are some fascinating productions and resources from Heather Blasdale-Clarke and  the Early Colonial Dance folk:


WEB RESOURCE Dancing on convict ships


On a number of convict ships the surgeons actively encouraged the convicts in their care to dance. This regime was noted in their Medical Journals. 


"As I consider that tranquility of mind is most essential to bodily health…I therefore caused [the convicts] to be let on deck from an early time of the morning until the close of the day…They were allowed to amuse themselves by running about, dancing, or in any innocent way whenever the duty of the ship would admit of it." 

From the Medical Journal of William Leyson, Surgeon on the convict ship Henry Wellesley 1837.


Explore this exciting new addition to the website here 


PODCAST Heather Clarke is interviewed by Jennifer Twemlow about life onboard convict ships.


Life onboard the early convict transportation ships could be brutal. The mortality rate was often high. Dr Heather Clarke describes the conditions of these early voyages and the turning point that brought about better conditions for convicts. She also discusses a much-loved form of exercise on the ships - dancing and music. Listen now 


RESOURCE Traditional Australian clog dance.


Two of our recent performances at Samford and Cedar Creek have included displays of  English clog dancing.  This was an extremely popular pastime in colonial Australia.  Some of our dancers have asked to learn more.  Here's the story. 


And there’s even more at Australian Colonial Dance

Thursday, March 18, 2021



Readers will recall our post on the work of Joanne Tapiolis about Italian prisoners of war in Australia during World War 2. Here are some more images from her research into music making at the Cowra, NSW, camp.


Joanne’s work has now been featured in Italy’s leading newspaper and you can follow it at

Homemade banjo mandolin, Cowra camp

Sunday, February 28, 2021


 Interviewing Cathy Hutchinson, Tasmania, 2018

Rob and Olya Willis have been collecting oral history and folklore around the country for many years. Their collection is held in various archives, libraries and other scattered locations. 


We have prepared a brief guide to the collection and points of access to it in a new page on the blog titled ‘The Willis Collection of Life Stories and Traditions’. From here, you can access much of the collection online and/or onsite at various institutions and locations.


One of the ‘Rats of Tobruk’, Walter ‘Jack’ Darnley, cheered himself and his mates up during the battle of Tobruk with this trench-made masterpiece. A toothbrush, a dixie and few other bits and bobs became  the ‘Darnley Dixaline’, a classic hybrid of banjo and mandolin.


Read all about it here on your ABC (use it or lose it) …

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The Man, the Woman and the Edison Phonograph: Race, History, Technology and Song — Zoom presentation


Sunday 21 February at 2pm by Zoom. Bruce Watson will give a presentation about the 1903 recordings of Fanny Cochrane Smith. These are among the earliest Australian sound recordings, the only audio recordings of Tasmanian Language. The story behind them encapsulates significant themes in Australia’s history.

The event is free, but you will need to register by clicking this link: You will receive the Zoom link by email from TryBooking when you have booked.

The Man, the Woman and the Edison Phonograph: Race, History, Technology and Song  —  Bruce Watson

Fanny Cochrane Smith was born in 1834 in the Flinders Island ‘exile’ settlement for Aboriginal Tasmanians. She suffered neglect and abuse, but learnt culture and language. Following Truganini’s death, she was the last person to hold this traditional knowledge. Her 1899 and 1903 wax cylinder recordings are the only recordings of Tasmanian Language made and have been pivotal in reconstructing palawa kani, the revived Tasmanian language. The recordings were added to the NFSA’s Sounds of Australia in its foundation year and added to the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register in 2017. This multi-media presentation will tell the story behind the photo of Horace Watson recording Fanny Cochrane Smith with surprising twists and turns and reverberations through history. It is a story of history, genocide, technology and the power of song.

Monday, February 1, 2021


Zambian kids playing up a storm on their homemade instruments at

Plus lots of other improvised African music.


Also, lots of other world music at The Music Man, including a woman who rips out rock riffs on her hurdy gurdy, as you do.

Sunday, November 29, 2020



Australians, along with troops of other nationalities, were imprisoned in Singapore’s Changi prison during World War 2. A lot of self-made entertainment was needed including, of course, music. A ukulele made from scrap was made and played by POW, the late Jeff Caddies. You can read all about it and view the pix here.

Friday, November 27, 2020


Swaggie c 1900, NSW Government Printer


Who was Handkerchief Jones? And why did Tom Doyle piss on the olives? Find out all about it as we fall into conversation and catastrophe with some of Australia’s colourful folk characters.




Another Yarns of Oz ‘podcast, written, produced and presented by Rob Willis and Graham Seal and featuring Bob Payne singing ‘One of the Has-Beens’…. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020


Ruth Hazleton and Judy McKinty are running a great children's folklore project at PANDEMIC PLAY.  The project asks kids, teens, parents, grandparents, carers or teachers to send in art, games, rhymes and the like, related to the COVID pandemic.